Now hear this: Training works

At the LBM Advantage conference, a podcast lesson in communication.

BY Ken Clark

Orlando, Fla. — Rather than just talk about the power of podcasts, the keynote presentation here at the LBM Advantage Annual Convention produced one on the spot.

And it was more than a publicity stunt. Featuring Barrons Lumber Vice President Mike Soulen and keynote speaker and industry consultant Bradley Hartmann, the podcast demonstration served as an example of outside-of-the-memo thinking when it comes to the increasingly critical tasks of training and motivation.

These ideas were well represented on the LBM Advantage event’s educational lineup. “Building Winning Teams,” “Leading & Handling Millennials,” and a series for NextGen Leaders were among the sessions. And Hartmann’s keynote addressed explored the future of LBM training.

Barrons Lumber’s Soulen is no stranger to podcasting. Barrons has produced 111 podcasts in the last couple of years – all designed for internal use to spread the word on goals, mission and company culture. The idea for a Barrons podcast arose from the need to bring clarity to the company’s new strategic plan.

“We did a little brainstorming and the CEO [Jim Davis] and myself came up with the idea: “Let’s do an internal podcast.’” Soulen said in a conversation with Hartmann that was being recorded for a future podcast. “That way they’re hearing directly from the horse’s mouth about what it is we’re trying to achieve.”

He describes the content as “conversational,” and effective.

“We talk a lot about stories that are going on throughout our operation,” he said. “I think by doing it in a conversational format, we’re really teaching people how to think, rather than saying to people: ‘Hey, I want you to memorize this corporate jargon and this mission statement up on our wall.’  It’s been very effective for us.”

Start up costs from scratch were just under $5,000 he said, a price tag that includes equipment and the creation of a “little studio.” There’s a $16 per month charge to boost the data through the web site. Time is also a cost. At first, each episode took about 3 to 4 hours, including coordination. Now, the team has it down to 90 minutes or 2 hours max.

Soulen is a big fan of the program.

“When people choose to listen to a podcast, they’re not being told to go to a meeting room — they choose to listen. They can take it their own pace. And We’ve discovered that the majority of our employees are actually listening during their commutes. To me that’s an amazing way to engage. They are actually thinking about work during their own time.”

And then there’s a benefit of creating a library of information that can be useful when onboarding new employees.

Hartmann’s discussion on training also included videos of Steph Curry demonstrating his basketball skills, and Brad Pitt, playing the role of data-driven baseball general manager Billy Beane in the film “Money Ball.”

The Steph Curry video nailed a point about capturing expertise.

“Who is the Steph Curry of your team?” Hartmann asked. “You probably have a Steph of Curry of something in your business. We have to find ways to learn from that person.”


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